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Press Release

Sex Trafficking Ring Leader Sentenced

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of New York

CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
FAX #: (716) 551-3051

BUFFALO, N.Y.-U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Feng Yang Chen, 43, of Flushing, NY, who was convicted of conspiracy to violate the Mann Act and the Travel Act related to the operation of an interstate prostitution business and using the internet to promote prostitution, was sentenced to serve 57 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth R. Moellering, who handled the case, stated that between March 2011 and March 2016, Chen operated a multi-state prostitution organization. The defendant was the leader of the organization – she told the victim sex workers how much to charge, what sex acts to provide, and where they had to work. Chen actively advertised the women on and operated a call center from her home in Flushing, Queens that scheduled meetings between prostitutes and their clients. The Government identified more than 6,000 Backpage advertisements that led to encounters with prostitutes in multiple states including New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas. Some of the commercial sex acts took place in Tonawanda, NY and Henrietta, NY.  

The defendant, who worked with co-defendants Chengqi Li and LiangLiang Guo, victimized at least 12 individuals who traveled state to state to engage in prostitution in various hotels. Chen recruited the victim women in China and used threats of violence and deportation against the victims and their families to force participation. One victim indicated that the defendant forced her to have commercial sex with rapists and made her work while she was menstruating and ill. After another victim was badly assaulted by a client, Chen forced the victim to return to work immediately, showing no compassion for her physical and emotional injuries.

“The conduct by the defendant amounted to treating her sex workers as modern day slaves,” noted U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “She had the victims sell their bodies—robbing them of their dignity—in order that she might enrich herself. Such heinous behavior bought Chen the one thing she truly earned—a significant prison sentence.”         

“Many people are unaware that human trafficking occurs and this tragic crime usually goes unnoticed in the United States,” said HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly. “While we can't erase the suffering these women experienced, we can aggressively investigate and prosecute those responsible. HSI and our partners will continue to send a powerful warning that consequences await those engaged in these heinous acts.”

The defendant made more than $2,000,000 each year from the prostitution business. The Court has ordered the forfeiture of approximately $450,000 in proceeds from the illegal prostitution activities; proceeds from the sale of two properties located in Flushing, NY; a 2012 Porsche Cayenne; as well as multiple cellular telephones, computers, and iPads utilized during the prostitution conspiracy. In addition, Chen was ordered to pay the victims more than $290,000 in restitution.

At sentencing, the Court noted the serious nature of the offense and the defendant’s financial motivation. The Court also noted that other individuals who worked for Chen were prosecuted and are currently in jail. Defendants Li and Guo were previously convicted, Li was sentenced to serve 21 months in prison, and Guo was sentenced to serve six months in prison.

Today’s sentencing is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly; the Tonawanda Police Department, under the direction of Chief Jerome C. Uschold III; the New York Police Department, under the direction of Chief James P. O’Neill; the South Portland, Maine Police Department, under the direction of Chief Edward Googins; and the Fairview Township Police Department, under the direction of Chief Jason C. Loper.

Updated February 21, 2019

Human Trafficking